November 13, 2015 / 1:11 AM / 4 years ago

Walmart workers group plans 15-day protest leading to Black Friday

(Reuters) - A Wal-Mart Stores Inc worker group that has pushed the retailer to raise pay and benefits is launching a 15-day protest leading up to Black Friday to rekindle the fight for a $15 per hour minimum wage and more opportunities to work full time.

The retailer has been a major target of the national movement to increase wages, and its decision earlier this year to raise wages to $9 an hour has rippled through the retail industry. Walmart has said the wage increase was not a response to the protests but an effort to improve conditions.

The new protest will test the organizing abilities of workers since OUR Walmart, the Organization United for Respect at Walmart, split in two in September.

The group organizing the protests ahead of Black Friday, traditionally the biggest shopping day in the United States, is led by a former United Food and Commercial Workers International Union employee but no longer has the union’s financial backing.

Roughly 1,000 people across all 50 states will participate, and more than 100 workers will fast and organize outside stores, offices and executive homes, according to the group, which has led nation-wide protests on Black Friday in previous years.

Tyfani Faulkner, an OUR Walmart member and former Walmart customer service manager in Sacramento, California, said she will fast for all 15 days and that some participants will do a liquid fast or might not fast all days.

The company, which has spent $1 billion this year on the wage increase to $9 an hour, will raise that number to $10 for current employees by February next year. Department store managers, which currently make $13 an hour, will receive a increase to $15 next year.

“False attacks and media stunts from the unions have become an annual tradition this time of year,” the company said in a statement, adding that it will continue to invest $2.7 billion in wages going into next year.

The company said last month that raising worker wages would hurt profits, contributing to three-quarters of an expected 6 percent to 12 percent drop in earnings per share next year.

Reporting by Kylie Gumpert; Editing by Peter Henderson and Steve Orlofsky

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